Whether it is whisky or whiskey, there are plenty debates on it for many years. Sometimes, the words don’t flow quite as easily as the drink itself, but it’s just a matter of spelling, isn’t it? Well, in case you’re curious, let’s find out the answer.
It’s somewhat confusing but the concrete answer is quite simple. Whisky or whiskey, it depends on where the spirit comes from. In the United Sates and Ireland, the common spelling is “whiskey” while in the rest of the world including Japan, Scotland and Canada, uses “whisky.”
This difference in the spelling comes from the translation of the word from the Scottish and Irish Gaelic forms. The word itself originated from Gaelic for “water of life”. Then why the United States spells whiskey? This ‘e’ was taken to the U.S. by the Irish immigrants back in the 1700s and has been used ever since.
It is widely believed that during the 19th century, Ireland’s distillers began to use the ‘e’ as a way to differentiate their spirits from Scotch. Despite from that, both has being recognized as high quality.
Let’s put it this way, Johnnie Walker is a whisky, because it comes from Scotland.
Jack Daniel’s is a whiskey, because it’s originally from the United States.
Are there more differences between those two besides the spelling?
Yes. Like the distillation process, where generally Scottish and American whiskies are distilled twice and Irish whiskey is distilled three times. Distilling more times produces a lighter and smoother spirit.
Same goes to the use of peat – in Scotland it’s common to use peat to dry the malted barley to be ready for milling and mashing while in Ireland and the U.S., they use wood or other fuels in this process and makes the spirit less smoky and lighter. Moreover, the Scots use malted barley in most of their whisky, but in Ireland they mix the malted barley with other grain to produce whiskey.
Each of them also has different smell and taste, while Irish has perfumery smell and roundness on taste, Scotch has smoky peaty smell and taste either sweet or dry, while USA Bourbon usually smells sharp and taste woody bitter.
After all, doesn’t matter whether it’s whisky or whiskey, there are no such thing as a bad ones. Scottish, Irish, Japanese or American? You choose. Or probably too curious to try all and taste the difference? Well, they say too much of anything is bad, but too much of a good whisk(e)y is barely enough. Yes, why not?